Thursday, 28 January 2010

'You can't be neutral on a moving train'*

Howard Zinn died yesterday: Along with Christopher Hill and EP Thompson, he was one of the radical historians who inspired me to study history, and more importantly to convince me that history matters.

* I love this quote - which is also the title of his autobiography - it not only sums up the study of history it also sums up the place of the individual in the march of history and in society as a whole.

Although every inch the university professor; his experiences - growing up in a working class Jewish family in Brooklyn, working in the shipyards, serving as aircrew in the USAAF, and activism in the peace and civil rights movement - were far removed from the sterility of academia.  The story that he dismissed the last class he taught twenty minutes early so that his students could attend a picket line is a great epitaph.

His People's History Of The United States has become something of a standard text - which is a shame in the sense that this status tends to obscure its radicalism. His recent People's History Of American Empire - in graphic novel form - will hopefully have the same effect on a new generation. Take a look at this presentation taken from the book:

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